By Zeta M. Kromah (YES 2022-2023, Liberia, placed by Greenheart Exchange in Fremont, NE)
My name is Zeta M. Kromah, I’m from Liberia, and I was hosted in Fremont, Nebraska. I’m also a student and a soccer player.
Growing up in one of the slum communities in Liberia, my school motivated me to become a YES student. It has always been my dream to study at an American high school and live a normal American lifestyle. The YES program had a massive contribution toward my understanding of American culture, as it gave me the opportunity to study and live with an American family. Living in an American community has played a huge part in knowing and understanding the culture of Americans. During my program in Nebraska, I learned a lot about American cultures from my host family, friends, teachers, coaches, and other people I met, and I shared Liberia’s founding history with my host family, friends and community.
The establishment of Liberia basically came from the American Colonization Society (ACS), which was founded by Americans to bring free enslaved people to Africa during the days of slavery. Because of this, Liberia adopted a few things from America, and even had some similarities such as the Pledge of Allegiance, a Constitution, and flag colors. A few Liberian counties and American states also share the same name, and most of our streets have been named after those Americans who helped in the process of the country’s establishment. Moreover, our capital city has been named in honor of James Monroe, the fifth President of the United States.
Apart from sharing important information about my country, my host family and communities also shared theirs. One important cultural value they shared with me is volunteering. Americans are always happy to help volunteer somewhere to help meet the needs of others.
During my exchange year, there were a lot of exciting memories from my host family, friends,teachers, and community, but the most memorable experience was winning the Fall 2023 Nebraska Youth Soccer League. I gave my medal to my host family in honor of their first soccer student. It was a joy for me to watch them hang the medal on my picture on their exchange students wall. This was memorable because it was my first award as an exchange student, and I devoted it to my host family to show how grateful I was for being their eleventh exchange student.
While there were a lot of exciting memories during my program, there were also a few surprises, including seeing how optimistic my soccer and basketball teams were even after a huge defeat. They showed how sportsmanship works with smiles on their faces after every single game. My high school teachers were also so welcoming and interested in knowing where I come from.
My most challenging moment was living the busy American life, which included waking up as early as 5am to be at campus for soccer pre-season practice and immediately after school practicing for basketball during that same period. Sports were something I was certain about doing, so during this busy period, I worked my schedule out with my host family so we definitely knew when we were available for family time.
As a YES alumna, I’m most excited about sharing my experiences with my friends and community back home. There’s a saying that you never know who has been impacted just by telling your story. That’s how I feel being an agent of change through my storytelling.